paint. Researchers will feel welcomed and encouraged to stay in the collaborative space due to the
warm textiles and furniture that emulates a living
Collaborative environments offer the ability
to share resources. The sharing of instrumentation is economical; there’s no need for each
individual to possess instrumentation that
is rarely used. Sharing instrumentation also
allows researchers access to supplies not otherwise at their disposal. An individual researcher
might not be able to afford specialized instrumentation, but a group can pool resources to
suit their collective needs. Resources dispersed
throughout the lab releases researchers to use
all of the space with comfort. This form of flexibility is at the core of modern labs.
As technology, techniques and lifestyles
change, the lab must learn to adapt. Casework
configuration is the most prevalent alteration
in the modern lab. While a strong argument
for fixed casework in certain labs remains, the
ability to have easily reconfigurable setups has
proven advantageous. Knee opening locations,
mobile pedestals and removable bench tops are
the most prevalent trends. These flexible workstations lend themselves to teamwork in which
each member brings his own surface to the
group for optimum efficiency. Stations can also
be modified to adapt to the needs of a specific
research project or specific researcher. The old
adage “one size fits all” is not always correct.
Group and contain utilities within walls,
floors and ceilings to maximize such flexi-
bility. This allows easy access during future
renovations and retrofits while minimizing any
disturbance to the existing building or adjacent
labs. Access chases, valves and items requiring
general maintenance are kept outside of the lab
envelope. When unavoidable, umbilicals may
be embraced within the lab space by assigning
them a practical purpose. Containing stray cords
within an acrylic surface that’s writable and eras-
able creates a collaborative writing space. This
semi-transparent fixture also optimizes visibility
and creates a more open environment.
An air of inclusion maximizes the available
space and develops a collaborative environment. Where seclusion was encouraged in
previous lab designs, it’s now essential for
colleagues, prospective students and clients
to see what’s occurring throughout the space.
Windows leading into labs from exterior corridors invite visitors to participate in the work
within. For work that requires more privacy,
semi-transparent acrylic surfaces may substitute for solid walls. Views to the outside—a
visual link to the daily cycles—confirms
improved worker attitude, thus increasing
productivity. Visibility is an important factor
for safety, morale and teamwork.
Good design doesn’t have to break the bank.
Value is in selecting standard casework, equipment and details. Standard mobile benches
are more economical than custom designs, but
still offer options. Grouping standard benches
together can create a custom pattern suitable
for the space, while allowing for easy redesign. Practical material selection can assist in
extracting the most from a budget. Consider
what’s appropriate for each individual setting.
For instance, directional airflow indicators
at lab entrances have many available features
that may not be necessary for a space. An
electronic sensor with a touchscreen might
be overly ambitious for a lab that doesn’t
request a visual indicator. Understanding the
needs and desires of a client is key in achiev-
ing cost-effective solutions. While designing
labs for optimum efficiency is initially less
expensive, design which fosters collaboration
and engagement across disciplines is crucial to
innovation, future success and funding.
New learning methodologies were the driving force behind the teaching and research
labs at the retrofitted Interdisciplinary
Research Center at Southern Illinois Univ.
in Carbondale, Ill. The lab emphasizes the
adaptability of the space, the fluidity of the
changing research and the nature of the founding research programs: Organismal Research
Aquatic Center, Fermentation Sciences and
Wet and Dry Core Instrumentation Lab. The
65,500-sf McLafferty Annex, retrofitted into a
new state-of-the-art research facility, highlights
the components of liquid labs. One level houses
multiple researchers with varying disciplines.
These occupants share facilities, supplies and
ideas. In each division of the space, standard
codes and equipment are present so that any
researcher, regardless of discipline, may work
successfully. Large glass surfaces allow outsiders access to the research within and provide an
optimal learning environment. Informal collaboration is encouraged by the transformation
of interior walls into writeable surfaces.
Although not custom ordered, the lab interiors don’t reflect an expected display of dou-ble-loaded corridors or fixed benches. These
traditional catalogue pieces have been modified
into organic forms to encourage discussion
amongst researchers. Set on casters, these fixtures roll into new formations within minutes.
Restructuring the traditional lab environment,
typically thought of as separate and confined,
has transformed the facility at Southern Illinois
Univ. at Carbondale into a collaborative space
to meet today’s learning needs.
Collaborative spaces offer the flexibility
necessary in the modern world while maintaining the efficiency of traditional design.
Liquid labs lead to collaborative work structures, thus encouraging the breaking down of
barriers and the sharing of ideas. Professionals
engaged in collaboration are focused on finding solutions rather than identifying with a job
title or department. This concept of cross-pollination among research disciplines may lead
to an increase in grant funding. Through liquid labs, professionals unite across disciplines
to share their vision for the good of science.
At HERA, Jinhee Lee specializes in design of
lab amenities for animal health and research facilities. Carlos Perez-Rubio specializes in design of
teaching and research labs and animal facilities.
Ken Mohr, principal, has extensive planning expertise focused on analytical, research and highly
technical labs for public and private clients.
An artistic rendering of the collaborative space at the Univ. of Chicago College of Medicine.